After weeks of frantic negotiations, and a rapidly changing race among the companies looking to take over the rising video app, reports now indicate that the White House will indeed support Oracle’s new deal to partner with parent-company ByteDance in order to keep TikTok running in the US.
As reported by CNBC:
“Approval of Oracle’s deal to become a “trusted technology provider” for ByteDance’s TikTok will be announced on Tuesday afternoon. Oracle confirmed Monday that it had struck a deal with the popular video-sharing app’s Chinese parent company.”
The specifics of the deal have not yet been announced, but the belief is that rather than taking over ownership of TikTok, Oracle, along with its consortium partners in its bid, will ‘license’ TikTok’s technology from ByteDance. That, it’s believed, will appease both the US and Chinese Government’s concerns – though it doesn’t seem, at surface level, to address the core issues identified by the Trump Administration in its Executive Order which called for the full sale of the rising video app.
In the EO, issued on August 6th, the White House identified two key elements of concern with TikTok:
- That TikTok collects data on US citizens, which can then be accessed by the CCP
- That TikTok censors information critical of the CCP, and could be used to spread pro-China propaganda
At the time, TikTok argued that the accusations were largely baseless, but nevertheless, the EO stood, which then lead to rival bids from Microsoft, Oracle, Walmart and Triller, among others, seeking to buy out the platform and separate it from its Chinese roots.
Whether those goals will be achieved in the Oracle deal is unclear – and at least one US Senator has already advised the Government to reject the Oracle/TikTok proposal due its failure to address these key concerns.
Senator Josh Hawley has published an open letter which criticizes the terms of the Oracle partnership, noting that:
“The available evidence compels only one conclusion: ByteDance has no intention whatsoever of relinquishing ultimate control of TikTok. ByteDance, as TikTok’s parent company, will continue to be subject to Chinese laws that put Americans’ data at risk. That is precisely the problem that the President’s action sought to solve, and it is that same problem that the proposed Oracle partnership leaves fully intact. In short, the proposal violates the President’s executive order.”
Hawley suggests that the Government should push ByteDance to sell off TikTok fully, in order to “remove any trace of CCP influence”, which will seemingly still remain within this proposed partnership.
Which makes sense – that is, after all, what the original EO was focused on achieving. It’s hard to see how a licensing partnership addresses these core concerns – but then again, without full insight into the final arrangement, it’s difficult to make an accurate assessment.
Some have also suggested that President Trump’s personal relationship with Oracle CEO Larry Ellison may come into play, while it’s also worth noting that Trump’s original motivation for action against TikTok may not have been tied by data security at all.
On several occasions, Trump stated that he was seeking to ban TikTok ‘as punishment for the spread of COVID-19.
As Trump noted back in July:
“[TikTok is] a big business. Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful.”
Trump said that banning TikTok was one of “many options” that he was considering at the time to “hit back” at Beijing over what he perceived as a failure on its part to contain the virus.
That being the case, maybe the Trump administration is not so concerned about potential spying and connection to the CCP as may have been implied by the EO.
It’s impossible to know, of course, and the deal hasn’t been officially approved as yet. But it does look set to get the nod. And it may be that ‘licensing’ TikTok will provide more separation than it initially seems, and it may be approved by the Chinese and US Governments, and TikTok continues on, as normal.
We’ll have to wait and see on the full detail.